Women’s Ashes 2021-22 – Covid-19 positive hits England party ahead of Women’s Ashes start

England captain Heather Knight has admitted “concern and anxieties” among the Australia tour following news of a support staff member testing positive for Covid-19, the latest disruption to their preparations ahead of the Women’s Ashes.

The unidentified individual tested positive in the second round of PCR tests carried out since England arrived in Australia. They are now isolated and will remain in Canberra while the group travels to Adelaide ahead of the Ashes’ T20I stage, which begins on Thursday. No further positive results were reported, with a further round of testing to be carried out before the team flies on charter on Monday.

England have been in Australia for less than a week and already had to revise their plans after the schedule changed before the start – the T20Is were brought forward, ahead of the one-off test, due to quarantine requirements for the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand.

They then saw their first outdoor training session affected by torrential rain, with Knight describing England’s build-up so far as “pretty average”.

The discovery of a positive Covid case in the camp has added to the restrictions England are under – although two scheduled intra-squad warm-up matches in Canberra this weekend will still take place – in an atmosphere of extreme caution ahead of the World Cup.

“We were prepared for this,” Knight said, “I think it would be pretty naive to think we wouldn’t be affected by this. [Covid-19] but there are concerns and anxieties on the part of the group. We’ve had to live under pretty strict protocols since we arrived, we’ve only been allowed to socialize outside for that reason, to try and limit the spread.

“It’s going to be a nervous 24 to 48 hours but the PCR tests we’ve already done have all come back negative. Fingers crossed. He was still going to be affected by Covid. We had to ‘live safe’ for two weeks at the UK, around Christmas, just to get out here, it’s been a colossal effort.

With Covid numbers in England rising in December following the arrival of the Omicron variant, players were told to limit contact to those in their homes ahead of departure for Australia, leading to routines of unusual training. Along with changes to the Ashes route, Knight said it was “quite difficult to focus on cricket”.

“It hasn’t been ideal, that’s for sure,” she said. “The preparation was pretty average, but it’s all out of our control. In those two weeks before we left England, we could only train as individuals, with our households, so we had some moms feeding gambling machines, boyfriends hitting, girlfriends throwing balls, dads kicking and supporting our training.As you can imagine, the prep was pretty comical, but not ideal either for a series of this magnitude.

“We found that with this quarantine in New Zealand, our preparation was going to be a bit shorter. Understanding that and trying to find ways to prepare ourselves, physically and mentally, was a bit difficult, and then throwing you Covid in there and changing the goalposts with the World Cup as well, as you can imagine it was quite difficult to focus on cricket.

“It didn’t help that the first training session was enjoyed by both cats and dogs. We didn’t have the best preparation, but what we have to do is try to make the most of it. .”

Changes to regulations while the team was on the air mean players currently cannot eat together at outdoor restaurants, although Knight hoped that would be relaxed at some point.

“Restrictions are in place to try to protect the integrity of the series, but we also have to make sure that we take care of the players and the staff and everyone who is here,” she said. “We have to find that balance between trying to maintain the integrity of the show and staying as safe as possible, but also having the feeling that you can live within the boundaries with a tiny bit of freedom, which I think , is important.”

Switching to the start of the series with three T20Is led to changes in planning – particularly how bowlers would be onboarded ahead of the test – but Knight also suggested the T20 was his team’s “strongest format”. and represented an opportunity to start the series. Good. She also said the disruption could help “relieve the pressure” against the No.1-ranked Australians.

“Of course there’s frustration, but that’s the time we’re living in right now,” she said. “It’s very difficult to shoot with Covid. The restrictions that we’ve been under have also changed, so it’s been quite difficult to adapt to that. As soon as you understand something, something else changes.

“But we have no choice but to try to make the most of it and do our best. Maybe that will relieve the pressure, we just have to find a way to free ourselves, to go out there and throw some caution to the wind. Mentally it’s going to be tough, but we’re doing everything we can to try and prepare and be ready for the first game.

England are looking to reclaim the Ashes for the first time since 2015, with three T20Is, three ODIs and a Test to play under the multi-format points system. The tour includes an England A side, who will provide warm-up opposition before playing their own matches against Australia A.

Alan Gardner is associate editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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